Beautiful blast-off of Gemini 11 on the Titan II rocket.
Just fifty years ago, astronauts Pete Conrad and Richard (Dick) Gordon lifted off from the LC-19 pad at Cape Kennedy, Florida. The flight took place just an hour and a half after the blast-off of an Atlas-Agena mission from LC-14.
Atlas rocket carrying an Agena docking spacecraft lifts off from pad LC-14.
Busy times at the Cape. While Gemini 11 lifts off LC-19, in the distance you can see SA-500F, a dummy Saturn V rocket used to test the launch facilities of Pad LC-39A before actual missions begin.
In a Gemini first, the manned capsule caught up to the Agena target vehicle 94 minutes after launch and docked without problems. The rapid flight to the docking vehicle was termed "direct ascent" rendezvous and docking, and is similar to the short 6-hour Soyuz flights used today for astronauts to reach the ISS in a minimal time. Once docked, the astronauts used the motor aboard the Agena to propel them into a higher record altitude of 850 miles, more than four times higher than the ISS orbits these days.
NASA publicity shot of Richard Gordon (L), and Pete Conrad (R).
The astronauts did not stay in the higher orbit. They docked and undocked a total of four times during the mission, and lowered their main orbital height to about 184 miles up. They then prepared for the main experiment of the mission, to simulate some artificial gravity using a spinning of the combined spaceships.
At a press conference, Pete Conrad uses models of the Gemini and Agena spacecraft to demonstrate how the tether between the vehicle would be used to keep the craft together while spinning around an axis point.
In the first mission EVA, Richard Gordon exited the Gemini capsule to attach a tether between the two vehicles. During the two hour plan for the spacewalk, he needed to move over to the Agena's docking collar and remove the 100-meter tether, then attach it to the prepared points on the Agena dock and the Gemini nose. Unfortunately, the activities of the EVA turned out to be much more fatiguing and problematic than the training had suggest it would be. The EVA had to be shortened, but Gordon successfully connected the tether.
Picture of Gordon preparing to exit the Gemini spacecraft.
Image of Gordon moving between the two spacecraft. Most of the footage of Gordon outside the craft, taken by Conrad, was of poor quality because of poor visibility in his window.
The slack in the tether is very apparent in this image taken by Gordon.
The tether experiment did not go as planned. They were never able to get the taught tether stability needed to fully generate a proper rotation, but the spinning they were able to achieve gave them a measurable amount of centrifugal force. Later, in a second EVA, Gordon was able to perform a non-tiring series of experiments and photography sessions.
High-quality image of Australia from Gemini 11.
Moonrise over the curvature of the Earth.
Three days after launch, the mission ended in a great example of the advances America was making with computer technology. In the first fully-computerized automatic re-entry, the Gemini 11 spacecraft precisely landed only 2.8 miles from its planned position, close by the recovery ship USS Guam.
USS Guam alongside the spacecraft and recovery frogmen.
Gordon and Conrad on the deck of USS Guam.
An interesting photo I found comparing the size difference between the two-man Gemini spacecraft and the original one-astronaut Mercury space capsule. Keep in mind that the white-colored service module section behind the Gemini astronauts did not return to Earth with the capsule but were destroyed after separation and re-entry.